20th April 2016. By Karl Matchett.
Hundreds of millions of euros spent in transfer fees and wages and numerous changes to playing and coaching personnel have given Paris Saint-Germain double the number of Ligue 1 titles in the last four years as in the rest of the club's history combined-but absolutely nothing to celebrate on the European stage.
Countless international starters have been signed, some at overinflated prices, along with a handful of the biggest names in the game: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Angel Di Maria, Thiago Silva. These are not merely good players, but genuine top-tier talents, players who should be capable of winning the UEFA Champions League...or at least going close.
The margins can be fine between success and failure in the latter stages, but four years of reaching the quarter-finals and not really threatening to go beyond looks as though the club's bankrollers, Qatar Sports Investments, have had enough. Laurent Blanc's job is in jeopardy, according to latest rumours, and the club are ready to make a move for Jose Mourinho over the summer.
It's an easy attraction to see; Mourinho has won league titles everywhere he has worked, as well as the Champions League with both Porto and Inter Milan. He has cache, the biggest names want to work with him and, best of all, he's available.
The Portuguese boss has made no secret of his preference to stay in England but only Manchester United seems a viable landing spot for him over the summer. With the Red Devils still dragging their heels on a decision of whether to retain or sack Louis van Gaal in summer, PSG could swoop. Should that happen, United fans would be well within their rights to vent fury at the club's hierarchy-but that's another matter entirely.
For PSG, there are limited options for improvement.
Even with the massive wages on offer in the French capital, not every player wants to go to play in Ligue 1. There is zero competition domestically, as evidenced by the four consecutive titles the Parisians have won and the 18-point gap down to second place this term, and that has clearly affected PSG's ability to compete in the latter stages of the Champions League.
Against Manchester City, a very winnable tie over two legs, PSG rarely looked like world beaters at either end of the pitch. There was a noticeable lack of aggressive intent or passionate belief about their progression, in the manner of-for example-Atletico Madrid's passage to the semis past Barcelona, or Real Madrid's comeback win over Wolfsburg. PSG were tepid, tame and terribly predictable throughout.
It reflects badly on Blanc.
He might have been the one to merge the team for eight months and land another title, but European supremacy is clearly the ultimate objective of the club and he has failed to deliver.
Mourinho is a step up on an organisational and motivational level, if not necessarily on a tactical level, and he will possibly even help retain the club's biggest asset, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, for a further year. The Swedish forward is out of contract but 77 league goals in his last three Ligue 1 campaigns, is clearly still the dominant force in French football.
Appointing a new manager means a possible change of emphasis in which players are retained and the types which need to be targeted over summer, but that is a probable situation regardless. The failure to compete in Europe won't be tolerated, and if the players are incapable, they'll be changed anyway.
And, Mourinho does have limited landing spots-not just in England, but elsewhere. He invariably demands three things from a new team: a solid base of a team already in place, huge funds to spend and no great restriction of playing style. It rules out the likes of Arsenal, Barcelona, any Italian side other than Juventus and perhaps Roma, and any club not in the biggest four leagues in Europe.
Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Real Madrid won't be appointing him any time soon, all with either new managers coming or just in place. It really is narrowed down to Manchester United, PSG or a slightly lesser Spanish side-again, who wouldn't have the funds he usually enjoys spending.
PSG are well-placed to make their move and as far as Mourinho goes, it could easily be a case of first come, first served. The French team would certainly benefit in the short-term and perhaps a new challenge, with Europe as the priority, is exactly what Mourinho needs too.
Paris Saint-Germain chase for Mourinho shows failure of Blanc to trouble Europe's finest
20th April 2016. By Karl Matchett.